The rise of the ‘copycat’ marketer

The term ‘marketing’ is a derivation of the Latin word, mercatus, meaning market-place or merchant, and it first appeared in dictionaries in the sixteenth century referring to the process of buying and selling at a market.

So, it’s safe to say that the art of marketing has been around for quite some time!

During this time, marketing has evolved a great deal into the exciting, fast-paced profession that it has become today.

As it has evolved, it has had to respond to rapidly changing markets, evolving technology and changing consumer demands, all of which are key drivers for creative thinking and innovation.

There’s always something new to discover in marketing, and creative thinking to be nurtured – and this is what makes it such an exciting environment to work in.

Or so you would think!

If the latest research is anything to go by, marketing could be facing its biggest ever challenge –  the rise of the copycat marketer.

Shocking statistics have revealed that up to two thirds of businesses have admitted to carrying out ‘copycat’ marketing to keep up with their competitors, rather than generating fresh ideas.

But what exactly is copycat marketing and what are the potential risks of this phenomenon to the future of marketing innovation?

Copycat marketing is exactly what it says – the copying of marketing techniques or messages from competitors, to attract or retain customers.

Its origins aren’t certain, but one possible explanation could be the recession of 2007, which led to stripped back budgets, redundancies and extremely restricted resources. With such little budget for creativity and innovation, is it any wonder we’re witnessing a rise in the copying trend?

A risky business

Copying a competitor’s techniques carries with it several risks, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by what our competitors are doing, plagiarism can do a great deal of reputational harm to a business.

What is more, being a sheep who follows the industry herd demonstrates a sad acceptance that businesses are willing to be one step behind the competition, rather than leading the charge through original content or ideas.

This stifling lack of creativity in our profession is very worrying – but what can be done?

Motivation and money, money, money

There is an important role that marketing membership associations can, and do, play in encouraging marketing innovation and motivating the next generation of marketers.

Rather than relying on what competitors are doing, marketers can make use their marketing memberships to educate and motivate themselves to be creative in their marketing strategies and campaigns.

“We have a vital role to play, not just in educating our marketers, but in motivating and inspiring them to think innovatively too.

“Much can be learned about the way businesses operating in totally different sectors carry out their marketing, which is why we provide a wide variety of educational and networking opportunities to encourage knowledge share across industry sectors.”

Tom Trainor, Chief Executive of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.

Indeed, this is what we do here at the European Marketing Confederation too.

Our annual EMC Forum brings together marketing membership associations from across Europe to share the very best of ideas and formulate our thoughts on how we can work together to promote marketing as a valued, and valuable, profession.

It’s an event that inspires the people who attend, and stimulates positive change.

And this is what our marketers need – to be motivated, stimulated and encouraged to be creative and different. Whether that means having to embrace failure to do so, or not.

To achieve this, however, marketing must be afforded the right resources – and therein lies the problem.  In 2016, companies spent on average just 7.5% of their total revenue on marketing.

To lobby for bigger budgets, marketing needs a better presence at the board table, to understand the future direction of travel and strategic aims of the business.

Until this time, the end of the rise of the copycat marketer may not yet be nigh.

Deze blogpost verscheen op de site van de European Marketing Confederation